Mentoring vital part of professional development, can help improve ‘soft skills’
A panel of three professionals across multiple generations on Friday (May 20)shared their experience and opinions about the value of mentoring in professional development Friday during the Sunny Side of Leadership breakfast that benefits Havenwood.
Research performed by Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation concluded that 75% long-term job success depends on soft skills and people skills, while only 25% depends on technical skills. Mentoring is a method of professional development that can help a person develop both soft skills and, in some cases, the technical skills needed to enhance their performance.
The three panelists were: Cassidy Hodges, Gallup certified strength finders coach and talent development specialist at DaySpring cards; Dr. Nick Ogle, program director of Behavioral Health for Mercy Health; and Dr. Cynthia Nance, the Nathan G. Gordon Professor of Law and dean emeritus at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville).
Mentoring is different from other close relationships such as an advocate or an even a friend, the panelists agreed. Mentoring is an intentional relationship with specific goal, Ogle said. Hodges said a mentoring relationship has both a structure and a sense of honesty about the mentees’ needs to enhance some attributes and decrease other traits. Even if a friendship includes healthy constructive criticism, without structure it will ultimately be unproductive as a mentoring relationship.
“If you’re too informal, nothing will happen,” Hodges said.
The panelists also discussed if there’s ever a time when it is too early in one’s life or career to mentor someone or to be mentored. They agreed that it depends on the situation, but that anyone with experience can help someone who is coming up under them. Someone who is mid-level could be mentored by a higher-level executive and that mid-level person could mentor an entry-level professional.
“It’s important to complete the loop,” Hodges said, adding that it can be beneficial to have several mentors that have a specific focus or are meeting a specific need for the mentee.
Ogle said you know you are potentially ready to mentor someone when the relationship is about helping the mentee, not about advancing one’s own career.
“You need to make it about the other person,” he said.
Nance said often it can be better to find a mentor who is closer in age to the person that person is mentoring. This is because sometimes generational and life experience differences can make communication difficult. In a related question, Nance also discussed how a person who is rising in a company will potentially find it harder to balance work and the rest of life. That’s where a mentor would be immensely helpful even though the person is reaching the highest level of management.
The panelists also agreed that the ability to “reverse mentor” is also possible, especially when crossing generation lines. For example, someone from the Baby Boomer generation or even Generation X might not be as comfortable using social media and other technology. A Millennial would be more adept at filling that mentoring need.
Another question the panelists discussed was how to find the right mentor. They shared thoughts including making sure the person has mentored before and being frank about if the mentor/mentee are a good fit.
Another aspect relevant in any professional industry is whether to have a mentor from within one’s own office. The reactions to this idea were mixed. On one hand, someone who understands the company culture would be able to give specific advice. However, someone who isn’t in the same company might have more objective views that are helpful.
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